Water is an essential element of everyday life. In the United States, we have grown accustomed to having unlimited access to clean water and sanitation. However, this is not the case in other countries, as water is oftentimes scarce and access to clean water is limited.

Currently, the U.S. consumes an average of 1,802 gallons/day. This numerical figure comes from various water sources such as indoor water (shower, bathtub, toilet), outdoor water (lawn, rain barrel, pool), and virtual water (driving, paper, plastic). Compared to the U.S. national average, my personal water consumption is less, as I use 1,633 gallons/day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a breakdown of my average water consumption compared to the U.S. average, my water consumption is significantly lower than the U.S. average in outdoor water use and virtual water use. For lawn and garden, I use 0 gallons/day compared to the U.S. average of 72 gallons/day. Furthermore, I use 0 gallons/day for swimming pool, compared to the U.S. average of 23 gallons/day. For car washing, my water consumption is equal to the U.S. average, as the U.S. average and I both use 1 gallon/day. As for virtual water, my shopping habits (291 gallons/day) are approximately half of the U.S. average (583 gallons/day). Similarly, for bottles and cans, I consume -15 gallons/day compared to the U.S. average of -8 gallons/day.COVID-19: Water Use When We Stay Home - Water News Network - Our Region's Trusted Water Leader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In comparison to the U.S. average, my personal water usage is higher in indoor water use. In terms of shower usage, my water consumption is significantly higher, as I average 65 gallons/day compared to the U.S. average of 11 gallons/day. Similarly, I use 40 gallons/day for the bathroom sink compared to the national average of 3 gallons.

 

 

Water Usage Statistics (2024)

 

 

Compared to the Levant region in the Middle East, the United States has greater access to water resources. According to Water Footprint Network, the United States’ water footprint per capita is 7,800 litre/day (2,060 gallons). Whereas the Levant countries average between 4,600 litre/day (1,215 gallons) to 6,300 litre/day (1,664 gallons). Of the Levant countries, Jordan is the most-water stressed. According to the United Nations, Jordan is the second most water-stressed country in the world. The average water consumption rate per capita in Jordan is 4,600 litre/day (1,215 gallons). The variance in water consumption between the Middle East demonstrates how access to water within the region varies from country to country, as some countries, such as Israel have access to more water resources compared to countries like Jordan, who struggle with water accessibility.

Levant, the core of the Middle East

 

Given that the Middle East struggles with water accessibility, several of the countries in the Levant region have to import water from external sources. In Israel and Jordan, over 80% of the countries’ water resources come from external sources, while less than 15% comes from internal sources (water sources within the country). This statistic demonstrates how these countries rely on outside sources to provide sufficient water for its industries and human capita. Whereas, in Syria, only 16% of the country’s water sources comes from external sources. Instead, Syria receives 84% of its water supply from internal sources. In this case, Syria is more independent in terms of water supply, as it is able to fulfill a majority of its water demand from internal sources.

The issue of water scarcity within the Levant region is due to social, economic, and political implications. First, the social implications which impact water availability within the region stems from geographical locations as well as population-migration issues. Each of the Levant countries are arid; as such, their water supply is limited. Furthermore, the countries have suffered from various droughts due to climate change, which has led to increased stress on groundwater reserves. The migration of the population has further strained water supply. The growth of the population has placed more users on the existing, yet dwindling water supply, further exacerbating the water scarcity issue.Climate Change Impacts in the Levant | EcoMENA

Second, the economic implications further stress the water supply issue within the Levant region. Since the mid-19th century, developmental aid to the region has primarily focused on improved infrastructure and capital for economic growth. Through these development projects, the region has aimed to produce more power, irrigation and flood control, while improving upon water sanitation and hygiene. Given that water is vital to infrastructure and economic growth, it is imperative for the Levant countries to improve upon their water supply in order for the economic growth to be successful.

 

Third, the political implications have furthered water supply concerns. Through the years, political tensions have arisen between the Levant countries as each country has constructed water projects which have stolen water from other Levant countries. Additionally, the political ties between the Levant countries and Western countries, such as the United States and Israeli relations, further illustrates how outside support has improved the water supply issue in some Levant countries as opposed to others (Jordan).

World Water Day: Mapping water stress across the Middle East | Environment News | Al Jazeera

The issue of water scarcity within the Levant region, but specifically within Israel (who has various international alliances with Western countries), has greater implications for international relations. As water scarcity continues to impact the region, the issue of population migration and food scarcity continues to increase. Therefore, individuals in these countries will turn to other international actors for aid and refugee help. In turn, this could potentially impact the population and economies of other international actors and international relations as a whole.

The concept of “others” or the similar “us vs. them” mindset is rather fascinating to consider, especially in terms of how this perspective influences not only our perception of other individuals but also our perception of other cultures and nationalities. While we may not intend to cast individuals who are different than us as “others,” it is a natural human tendency.

As we studied in my social psychology class, many Western cultures, including the United States, tend to reflect individualistic mindsets, meaning more emphasis is placed on the individual and their own attributes and identities, rather than the collective group. However, in other cultures, such as cultures in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, greater value is placed on collectivism. Given these foundational differences in cultural ideologies – individualism vs. collectivism – we are led to further explore the differences between our Western culture and the culture of other regions such as the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. As we find more differences between the two, we inherently start to characterize individuals in Eastern cultures as “others” or look at it from a lens of “them vs. us.”

 

Individualistic Culture: Definition, Traits, and Examples

What Is a Collectivist Culture? Individualism vs. Collectivism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This concept of “others” is found within our communities. Northern Virginia is a relatively diverse area with individuals from various backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures. Given our proximity to Washington D.C., there still exists the concept of those who belong and those who are cast as an outsider. Growing up, in my high school, individuals from Western cultures were predominantly viewed as belonging, while individuals from Middle Eastern, Asian, and African cultures were viewed as outsiders or plural others. Furthermore, given the demographics of Northern Virginia and the consequent lifestyle, individuals from higher socio-economic classes were viewed as more belonging compared to individuals from lower socio-economic classes.

Even in my college experience at Dickinson, while the college strives to promote diversity and inclusion, the concept of “others” is still prevalent. Given the demographics of Dickinson, I feel that individuals who are from foreign countries, but specifically non-European countries are viewed as the “other” or as plural groups. For example, the current student population at Dickinson is 2,204, of which 24% of students are of color and 13% are international. Given these statistics, both international students and students of color are in the minority, hence these individuals can be perceived as “others” or a part of plural groups. Furthermore, moving away from demographics pertaining to nationalities, I feel like there is another presence of “other” mindset in the sense of athletes versus non-athletes. Given the size of Dickinson, about a quarter of students (if not more) are members of varsity sports teams. This in itself creates the mindset of “others,” in that student-athletes view those who are not fellow athletes as “others” and vice-versa.

 

Dickinson College Diversity: Racial Demographics & Other Stats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In viewing individuals as “others,” this can not only influence our perceptions but also our interactions with them. While we may have our own preconceived notions of different cultures and nationalities, the media plays a significant role in shaping our perceptions. For example, the media coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to the misperception and stereotypes of Middle Eastern cultures, specifically Islamic culture. Due to these misperceptions, individuals outcasted Muslims within the United States and portrayed them as “dangerous” or as “terrorists,” hence harming the interactions with individuals from the Middle East. Similar to the 9/11 attacks, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, misperceptions of Japanese led to the general characterization of all Japanese Americans as “dangerous to national security” thus, resulting in the creation of internment camps.

Each of these two examples depict how preconceptions influence both domestic politics but international politics as well. Given how the United States viewed Japanese after Pearl Harbor and Arabs after 9/11, U.S. foreign policy to these regions drastically shifted. In each of these situations, the U.S. responded with increased hostility, which led to tense and adversarial relations. While these two examples are extremes, it demonstrates how preconceptions of other cultures on a self-level can influence domestic preconceptions, and subsequently influence international preconceptions. Thus, the concept of “other” is not only prevalent in our local communities but also appears on the global scale, as nations perceive other nations as the “other.”

 

 

 

 

For my entire life, I have grown up in the United States, primarily in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. When I was just two years old, my family moved from our home in Colorado to Virginia due to my father being relocated for work in the Air Force. Given the young age at which I moved, I have never considered Colorado to be my home. Home instead for me is Gainesville, Virginia, a suburban town roughly 30 miles from D.C.

Gainesville, in my opinion, is the perfect mix of city and rural lifestyle. If one was to drive roughly fifteen to twenty minutes east, you’d find skyscrapers, massive highways, and endless rush hour traffic. Whereas, if you drove the equal amount of time west, you’d instead find cows, corns and endless pastures. As an individual who dislikes the chaos of city life but also needs to have a Chick-Fil-A (and other food/shopping options) nearby, Gainesville provides a comfortable mix of the two realities.

While my family has established our roots in Gainesville, one of my family’s favorite activities to do together is travel. As children, my family primarily traveled domestically, visiting various National Parks and tourist attractions. However, in recent years, we have expanded our travels to include international, such as countries in South America and in the Caribbean. Travel has always played an essential role in my life, not only because it exposes me to new experiences and sights, but also teaches me about other cultures and lifestyles of individuals in other parts of the world.

Although I have traveled to and explored other states and nations, one region I have not yet explored is the Middle East. While my Arabic courses have exposed me to various cultures and nations within the Middle East, such as Jordan and Egypt, I have not had the opportunity to experience the region firsthand. Hence, I loved our interaction with the AUS students in Sharjah because it provided an opportunity to engage with university students from a different region of the world and to learn about their life experiences and interests and draw similarities and differences between the two cultures.

One similarity was our mutual love for travel. In our breakout room discussion, we each shared an object of significance with the group and explained why the object was important to us. In my breakout room, a few of us, including myself, showed pictures from a vacation or travel experience. One photo that particularly resonated with me was another individual’s visual of Venice. As she displayed her photograph for the group, she explained how her family and her often travel to Venice, and how Venice brings her peace and comfort. This statement stood out to me because I too, associate travel with peace. When I travel, I feel a peace of mind and comfort, because travel provides an opportunity to escape the chaos and responsibilities of everyday life and to be able to explore and experience new adventures for a period of time.

Another key similarity was the importance of family. As students engaged in the breakout room, it was clear how in both cultures, family is a central aspect in our respective lives. For one student’s significant item, she showed an heirloom from her grandmother – a cross necklace symbolic of her Catholicism background. Similarly, another student shared a coffee cup with her cat’s image imprinted on the side, and explained how her cat is important to her and her family. Furthermore, as we discussed our university experience, specifically our studies away from home, we each mentioned how we miss our families, especially our mother’s home-cooking. Through these conversations, the importance of family in each culture was depicted, as we each shared sentimental stories about experiences with family, favorite memories from home, and our love for home-cooked meals compared to meals provided by our respective cafeterias.

Furthermore, as we discussed our families, one girl mentioned how her family is considered a founding family in her town in Jordan. Unfamiliar with this concept, since it is not typical in my hometown for families to be classified as “founding families,” I was intrigued to learn that as a founding family, every street in her town is named after one of her family members. This idea is fascinating to me, as I imagine what it would be like to drive through Gainesville and see road signs with my name as well as my family members’ names on the signs rather than random names such as “Tall Timber” or “Raspberry.”

Overall, our initial conversations with the students of the AUS revealed many similarities but also a few differences between our cultures and respective lives. As an individual who loves to learn about other people and their experiences, I enjoyed these conversations because it shed light on how other university students in different regions of the world live and what their college experiences are like. With that said, I am eager for future interactions to further get to know the AUS students in Sharjah and interact with th